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Macau: National Security Bill Passed

(Mar. 10, 2009) On February 25, 2009, the legislature of the Macao Special Administrative Region of China passed the National Security Bill; it was promulgated March 2 and effective the next day. It covers acts of sedition, secession, subversion, and treason against the central government of the People's Republic of China (PRC). The Region has had no such law in effect in the period since its return to Chinese control in 1999. (Zhang Jiawei, Macao Makes Law to Safeguard National Security, WINDOW OF CHINA, Mar. 2, 2009, available at

The new law punishes acts of treason, secession, or subversion against the PRC with prison terms of 10 to 25 years; preparing to commit those acts is also punishable, with a term of up to three years in prison. The maximum sentence under the criminal law of the Region is 30 years, a sentence that could be given as a maximum for combined offenses. (Id.)

Human rights groups have raised concerns that the new law could lead to abuses against the rights of Macao residents. “The National Security Law has vague and broad provisions that could be used to imprison individuals merely for exercising their rights to freedom of expression and association,” said Roseann Rife, Deputy Director of the Asia-Pacific Program of Amnesty International. (Macao National Security Law Threatens Human Rights, Amnesty International website, Mar. 2, 2009, available at

In the new law's article on subversion, there is a phrase “other grave illegal acts” that could potentially apply sanctions to a range of actions that are not clearly defined, perhaps including non-violent demonstrations or strikes (art. 3). Furthermore, the mainland China's state secrets system has been introduced into the Macao region (art. 5). That system is described by Amnesty International as extensive, vague, and a tool for intimidation, detention, and punishment for exercise of human rights. (Id.)

Speaking for Macao's government, Florinda da Rosa Silva Chan, Secretary for Administration and Justice, said that efforts will be made to balance national security interests and the rights and freedoms of the Region's residents. (Zhang, supra.)